The Secret Racist Presence in the Marvel Universe

‘Shang-Chi’ Will Be Important, But Far From Enough, December 4th, 2018,


When googling Asian superheroes, almost nothing was found.  Most characters were either minor characters or villains. If there were any Asian characters at all, they would have ‘Fu Manchu’ mustaches or something to do with dragons.  They would be master martial artists, being the stereotypes of Asians. However, the Asian community wants something more than an Asian stereotype. They wanted someone like the Flash or Nightwing.

Recently, “Iron Fist”, a Netflix series was cancelled because Marvel refused to think of the character of having Asian heritage.  Instead, Marvel chose to whitewash the role, lacking cultural awareness. The actor who was hired needed several months of martial arts training.  Also, the show needed some kind of Asian representation because the show was about Asian martial arts. Perhaps if the show had some sort of Asian representation, it would have helped the show from being cancelled because of the drive of Asian culture that would be featured in the show.  

A few months later, Marvel has released the ideas of a movie franchise about an Asian superhero, Shang-Chi.  Shang-Chi is a martial arts-based hero who joins the Avengers in the comics. According to reports, Marvel plans to consult Asian filmmakers.  This should be good news for the Asian community.


Shang-Chi will just be some martial arts movie that will continue to present the stereotype of rich, uncultured, martial arts knowing Asians.  I despise the fact that Marvel had to use Shang-Chi in particular. The only reason why they’re creating the movie is not for the content and for the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but rather for money, after noticing the success of “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians”.

The fact that Marvel picked Shang-Chi is quite offensive to an Asian.  First off all, the name is already so stereotypical. Next, his skills are ‘master martial artist’ is very stereotypical and repetitive.  Everything about the character is racist and stereotypical.

It is okay to portray Asian sometimes as martial artists, but not all the time.  In almost every single movie, Asians are either the nerd, master martial artist or the weirdo.  The repetitiveness is getting boring and it’s sticking in people’s minds. It’s time for change.  

Marvel is attempting to mimic the success of Black Panther, but they’re not doing it the right way.  Black Panther broke the stereotype of criminal African-Americans. Instead, they looked at the African-American community, showing that African-Americans can be heroes, not thugs, criminals and threats to the community as a whole.

Instead, Marvel promotes a movie that uses stereotypes to make a character mold.  They will attempt to force this character, with an stereotypical Asian name, with the stereotype of being a martial artist.  Shang-Chi comes from stereotypes, originally from Dr. Fu Manchu, who was a villain who used martial arts and had a stereotypical ‘fu manchu’ mustache.  

After looking up Asian Marvel superheroes, no well-known Asian heroes were found.  However, in the DC universe, there are many well known Asian superheroes, including Katana, Robin, and more.  Perhaps Marvel could attempt to include more diversity in their characters like DC.

As society learns to treat others fairly, it is definitely important for large influential franchises to do so as well.  When large franchises portray any race stereotypically, it harms everyone in the community and fuels racism. It hurts individuals and can cause bullying and even suicide.  

As John Langdon once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but often rhymes”, the racism towards Asians is reflected in the conservative Turks living in the Ottoman Empire.  After the British and French pressured the Ottoman Empire to give equal citizenship to all people under their rule, the Ottomans did so, which angered the Turks. As a result, the Ottomans killed and deported the Armenians.  The Armenians were driven from their homes, arriving in refugee centers, begging for food. This is like how racism is present today. Often time, Asians are driven away from opportunities, just because of stereotypes. Harvard and other Ivy League schools discriminate Asians, believing all Asians are shy.  In one case, even before meeting an applicant, the administration called the young applicant ‘shy’. When another white applicant was compared to the Asian, the white applicant had similar achievements to the Asian applicant, and was also shy. The white applicant was unfairly accepted. In other cases, Asians who have higher grades are rejected in favor of white students with lower grades.  

Overall, it is extremely important for large companies to use their forms of media positively, because it will affect everyone in the audience.  When a company uses stereotypes to portray a protagonist, it constrains the people who are being stereotypes and makes others believe that the stereotype is true.  Everyone is unique in their own way. Nobody is a clone with the same exact personality. That’s what makes humans special.